After an amazingly mild winter so far in Perth, suddenly the Bureau of Meteorology site predicted cold and wet weather so we packed up the caravan and drove due NORTH in search of the sun…
Spent some time with Michele and her Mum Audrey in Geraldton. We had one good day of weather before it started raining which we spent in the Chapman Valley…
The Greenough river was interesting after recent floods – many trees uprooted and debris suspended in the trees lining the creek bed.
Took off to Carnarvon in rain and it continued intermittently for the next three days. That didn’t stop us from eating all the beautiful produce there – amazing fresh vegetables and fruit. Plus of course the pink snapper and freshly cooked huge king prawns at $18 per kg from Pickles Point Seafood!
Pulled out of Carnarvon for Exmouth in rain and it continued until half way between Minilya and Exmouth. Fortunately there was a short break while we were setting up our driveway camp thanks to friends Jan and Jamie.
First day was very miserable with intermittent rain and overcast conditions – not unknown in Exmouth as we can attest from past experience. However, it cleared up over night and for the last three days we have had wonderful conditions – blue skies, no wind and temps in the high 20’s… Bliss!
We have had a good look round and noted changes in Exmouth – the town is growing with a lot more homes on the marina and construction going on in town as well.
We revisited the Ningaloo coast as far south as Turquoise Bay and some of the coastal camping spots – all full! No vacancies anywhere down there.
We must try to book a spot some time in the future, as it is a magnificent coast with lots on offer.
We are not into ‘swimming with whalesharks’ and we have done whale spotting elsewhere. So we are happy to go fishing and do some photography in the area. Lots of chances of great land/seascapes… but please tell us which photo above you like the best?!
Rather than heading directly west to Perth and to continue our coastal trek, we turned south at Norseman as we were keen to explore the southern coast of WA. First stop was Esperance where we stayed at the Pink Lake Caravan Park. The lake is not even vaguely pink – don’t ask!
This is a lovely seaside town of 14,000 although you need to be prepared for cool weather. While enjoying a delicious lunch at Taylors Beach Bar overlooking the sea, we were thrilled when our waitress lit the fire – in December. The beach foreshore area is well laid out, with further development under way to extend this recreation area.
Next day was warmer and we headed 50 kms out to the national park at Cape Le Grand. We were pleasantly surprised by to find a bitumen road all the way as this makes this wonderful region so accessible to visitors. There are so many beautiful bays and landforms. Lucky Bay was stunning due to the contrast between the ice blue and deep blue water along with the super-white sand. Even a magical caravan on the beach serving hot chocolate and damper with quandong jam – yum! Such a magic place and now high on our list of camping spots for another day.
Mt Le Grand and Frenchman Peak are two examples of huge granite outcrops, exposed after being submerged under the sea for a long, long time (OK, 600 million odd years). There is a beautiful variety of wild shrubs and flowers, especially banksias all along the way.
We then headed southwest to explore the Fitzgerald Coast, with first stop at Hopetoun. We felt as if we were staying in a nature reserve at the Hopetoun Caravan Park – wonderful gardens and the dawn chorus of birds was a beautiful wake-up call.
The Fitzgerald River National Park covers a huge strip of the coastline extending inland between Hopetoun and Bremer Bay. We found this an amazing place to visit as the scenery is so varied – rugged cliffs and gorges, pebbly beaches, rivers, mountains, plains…. plus lots of birds and wildlife. The area has gas barbecues and toilets provided at various locations and are in first class condition. A lot of thought has obviously been applied in the layout and design of these picnic and camping areas.
There were still some beautiful wildflowers and bushes to see although it is close to the end of their season.
Again, first class roads and a range of camping options – that list is just getting longer!
From Hopetoun we circled around the mighty Fitzgerald National Park to end up in Bremer Bay, another delightful coastal town.
A visit to the Wellstead Museum revealed lots and lots of early pioneer memorabilia and agricultural equipment – tractors, bikes, coaches, antique vehicles and even a horse drawn hearse. We then enjoyed dinner at the Bremer Bay Resort prior to making an early morning start to Albany.
This lovely town was the last Australian port for ANZAC forces leaving for World War I, 100 years ago. This was commemorated recently and we watched the ceremonies live on TV, so it was great to see the new infrastructure built specially to mark the occasion. A visit to the National ANZAC Centre at the Fortress at Mt Adelaide is recommended. We took in the conducted tour of the old guns and other installations which have been updated and are very interesting and attractive for tourists.
The Mt Clarence Memorial to the Light Horsemen was also a highlight of our visit.
A couple of whinges:
1. It is sad that many WA restaurants do NOT serve evening drinks… ‘no sorry, dinner begins at 6.30 pm’. Don’t they realise that while we are there with our drink that we will check out the menu, maybe come tomorrow night or at the least, pass on the lovely experience to our neighbours? Hybla on Middleton Beach was a notable exception, welcoming us for a great glass of Shiraz at their beautiful location overlooking the sea.
2. We were disappointed that the former Middleton Beach Hotel, built by Paul Terry some years ago and since demolished (?) has not been replaced and the site remains overgrown and very unattractive… Ian had stayed at this hotel and it was the best and newest in Albany at the time. Why did it need to be demolished, who now owns it and what is going to happen to the area?
Albany maintained its reputation as a cold, windy and wet destination at any time of the year… We were back into wet/cold weather gear for most of our stay. Next morning we packed up the caravan in windy and wet conditions and it was a real relief to get into the car and head off for home… We stopped for breakfast at Williams and changed into shorts and T-shirts again! Then we managed to roll into the backyard at Greenmount at 12.30pm.
The caravan has covered almost 10,000km and the car a little over 25,000km in 8 and a half months. Phew! This trip is over – BUT we are already researching our next one, and plan to showcase some beautiful places to visit in the Hills region of Perth in future blogs – so stay tuned!
As we all know ‘the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry’! Our plan was to head west from Clare to catch the Wallaroo to Cowell ferry… Only to find that it is suspended due to a downturn in traffic and the SA economy generally. So sad as it’s a great way to save time and money getting to the Eyre peninsula.
So Plan B saw us driving north from Clare past Port Pirie and Port Augusta to camp in Wudinna. All was forgiven during our evening walk when we found this magnificent 8 metre high granite statue built in 2009 to commemorate the ‘Australian farmer‘.
Sadly the dogs of the town had kindly scheduled a special “bark and howl” concert for the night, so none of us in the caravan park got much sleep. GRRR. So on to Ceduna to pick up oysters (you need some luxury on the Nullabor).
Fowlers Bay Eco Park was our next stop.
This little coastal town was once the main South Australian port for ferrying wool and wheat (although a mouse plague in the warehouse one year proved disastrous!) Explorer Edward Eyre also set off west from here in 1840. He was lucky to survive many trials and tribulations to get to Albany and put any silly ideas of creating an overland stock route between eastern and western Australia to bed forever. Sadly the town is gradually being consumed by a huge sand dune! Some of the old parts are now lost forever under tonnes of white sand…
We managed to experience pleasant sunny weather, gale force winds, an early morning thunderstorm and heavy rain in the space of 18 hours. Phew! We can now truly say ‘been there, done that’. It’s worth noting that reducing your car and van tyre pressures on the unsealed sections of the road gives you a much more comfortable ride.
From Fowlers Bay we headed of to our last border crossing home into Western Australia. This time we had read the very useful Domestic Quarantine website and passed with flying colours.
It’s eight months since we left Perth, so it was exciting to be back – ‘only’ 2118 kilometres to go!
An overnight stop at Madura, then more straight roads and fuel stops…
But there are always interesting places and stories along the way, e.g. Samantha the wedge-tailed eagle at Cocklebiddy. These huge birds struggle to get airborne quickly, which is disastrous when they are feasting on roadkill. Sam was rescued after being hit by a truck, flown thousands of kms to Karratha for rehab and is now back at the roadhouse building up her strength – hopefully ready for release in March 2015. We are passionate about these magnificent creatures, so much so that we chose them for our blog logo on our vehicles. A timely reminder that tooting your car horn is a good way to warn them to move off the road.
Time stands still in this area – we drove 65 kms from Cocklebiddy to Caiguna and arrived at the same time! There are time changes not only between SA and WA but Central Standard Time (SA time without daylight saving) and WA… OK, it was a perfect summer’s morning so no need to worry about time. Ian hasn’t worn a watch since 1992 and Ginny joined him on 15 February this year.
Another ‘wish list’ item was ticked off with our two nights at Fraser Range Station. Glad to have experienced this, although sadly they don’t run station or sunset tours with less than 4 people. We had been keen to get a sense of the size and history of the property.
Next stop – due south to Esperance!
One of the experiences we have most been looking forward to on this trip was the famous Great Ocean Road… and it really lived up to our expectations!
First though we caught the ferry across Port Phillip Bay from Sorrento to Queenscliff to catch up with old friends in Geelong for a few days. Kathy and Geoff Strachan took us for a magnificent dinner at Man Bo, and it was great to see the Fitzpatrick’s new home and catch up with Tim as well. Ginny enjoyed walking along the waterfront esplanade down to Eastern Beach – a beautifully restored Art Deco swimming enclosure, fountain and kiosk which is very popular with both residents and tourists. Ian was also impressed with his visit to the RAAF Museum at Point Cook.
Thanks to the many people who gave us good advice on the best way to enjoy the Great Ocean Road. Towing a caravan along a busy, winding and fairly narrow road is not much fun, especially for the driver! So as suggested, we chose several spots to stay along the way. We then retraced our steps or moved further along, returning to our base camp each night. An unexpected bonus was the beauty and diversity of the regions just inland from the coast.
Stop 1: Wye River, staying in the lovely caravan park and ambling up the hill to the pub or out to the beach. Koala-spotting became our newest hobby but we didn’t expect to see our first one racing towards us on all fours along the river bank! The wildlife in this caravan park is marvellous to experience. All manner of birds are attracted to the trees and shrubbery in the park and are a constant presence here… Very pleasant.
Stop 2: Bimbi Park. We were surrounded by the beautiful manna gums which are the preferred food source for koalas, so we felt privileged to see so many in their natural habitat doing what koalas do best – eating and sleeping! Once again a wildlife wonderland.
They also make the loudest noises. Apparently they have a unique voice box that allows them to make a ‘belching’ call that only large animals like elephants are capable of usually – read about it here. Very weird the first few times you hear them – listen here and see what you think!
The nearby Cape Otway Lightstation has been operating since 1848 – the fact this area is known as the Shipwreck Coast probably gives you the rationale for that! The views from 80m up were spectacular.
Two day trips stand out in our memory:
1. Tanybryn, Forrest and Deans Marsh and back to Wye River via Lorne
2. Lavers Hill, Beech Forest, Skenes Creek and back to Cape Otway. A narrow road wends through beautiful forest, tall stands of plantation timber and huge tree ferns between Beech Forest and Haines Junction – very beautiful, but put your headlights on!
Next blog – further west on the Great Ocean Road…
Our base camp at Mooloolaba Beach Holiday Park was great for exploring the Sunshine Coast…. walking distance to excellent shops – loved Think Pinq! plus the beach, marina and the Surf Life Saving Club for sundowners or lunch with friends Shauna and Allan.
Two great day trips stand out; firstly our drive north along the coast to explore the many beautiful beaches. We stopped in Noosa Heads to window-shop along the pretty streets, listen to live jazz in the mall, drool over amazing restaurant menus and finally settled on a gelato – too much choice! We returned south via the inland route and visited some sadly disappointing tourist spots (think overpriced and underwhelming).
Another fun trip was travelling west into the Hinterland, a big change from the coastal sun and surf, and we could easily have spent a week exploring this beautiful region. First stop was the Maleny Botanic Gardens and Bird World for beautiful views of the Glasshouse Mountains. The gardens were delightful, the Devonshire tea was magnificent (truly amazing scones with proper teapot and all!) but our top pick was the tour of the aviary which only opened last year. Our guide managed to impart so much information; survival tips e.g. which bird would pinch your earrings or hearing aids! as well as the history and habits of each bird species.
Walking around the town of Maleny was a joy, especially when we discovered there were FOUR bookshops (we have been to many towns where there are none – so sad but apparently we are all buying our books online now?) The Pallet Life Gallery and Cafe was fun – our family is very fond of recycling pallets but there were lots of new ideas here, plus good coffee!
Our stay at Brisbane Holiday Village was perfectly located (5 minutes from the city!) for us to catch up with friends. Brisbane is a hilly city, so our first stop was the highest peak Mt Coot-tha to get our bearings. This is a great spot with a botanic garden, a planetarium and many walking and bike trails to explore, plus a cafe for those in need.
Ian was keen to get photos of koalas so off we went to the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. We sometimes feel ambivalent about going to wildlife parks or zoos as some just don’t measure up – both for the animals and the people visiting. However this sanctuary is not at all glitzy with the animals definitely being the stars, along with many knowledgable staff. Plus there is a waiting list for volunteers to join up (pretty rare these days!)
Of course the koalas were gorgeous, doing what they do best i.e. sleep and eat, and the one above really hammed it up for the camera – don’t you think he is grinning?!
The sanctuary rehabilitates all sorts of animals and birds that have been injured. Unfortunately many can’t return to the wild but here they play an important role in demonstrating their skills to us mere humans. This was very evident in the Birds of Prey display.
The black kite in particular thrilled us with his speedy (scary) flights through the audience.
It must be so rewarding for the staff to see amazing creatures like the sea eagle take to the sky again. Great to see so many families enjoying this place, with many using public transport or combining their visit with a daily launch trip on the Brisbane river.
Next stop… Tweed Heads to visit friends and explore the Gold Coast.
We are finally moving south – but slowly so that the cooler temperatures don’t shock us too much!
First top was Cardwell. Our memories of lunching on beautiful fresh mud crab sandwiches in a local cafe were dashed as they had closed down. We did try the new outfit (complete with a large crab on their roof) but they were just not up to scratch – watery with free pieces of shell! Fortunately the Cardwell Beachcomber caravan park where we stayed saved the day with yummy mud crab spring rolls at their restaurant.
The lovely boardwalk along the beach made for a pleasant walk into town. Walking in the other direction took us to the Battle of the Coral Sea memorial, commemorating the huge loss of lives in the air and sea battle between the allied Australian/US forces and the Japanese forces in May 1942. It’s easy to forget how close WW2 came to Northern Australia after Singapore and New Guinea were invaded. One special quote about this tragedy was “This was the first naval battle, in history, in which the opposing ships never came within sight of one another. The entire action was fought by carrier borne aircraft.”
Rollingstone Beach Caravan Resort was our next stop 30 minutes north of Townsville.
Our beachfront site was delightful (although the wind was so strong that at times we wished we had a more sheltered site) Local farmers bring in pineapples and pawpaws each day – hog heaven. Speaking of which, 3 little pigs (just spit size!) literally strolled out of the bush in front of us one day to forage in the garden round the park office! The people were aware of them and had caught one, but the remainder have learned to be a little more cautious… They are working on other strategies to get them. There were several birds attracted to the Grevillea planted round the park.
The track from Bluewater up into the Paluma National Park was a fab half day drive – the first time we’ve had our FJ Cruiser in 4WD for months and we needed it in a few spots! This is the southern most area of tropical forest, very lovely and would give you outstanding photos out to the coast on a sunnier day.
Our stay in Airlie Beach was also wet and windy. We found this tourist spot similar to Port Douglas – in fact you can stand anywhere and turn 360 degrees and see every type of accommodation from highrise apartments, resorts, hotels, backpackers etc…. but how much of it is full is the interesting question. The marinas full of yachts plus all the boats plying their trade to the Whitsundays are amazing as well. The neighbouring suburb of Cannonvale doesn’t seem to feature on tourist brochures but is where many locals live, and has lovely beaches and cafes.
Our research into long lost Italian relatives in this region also took us to the lovely country town of Proserpine. Key industries here are sugar and cattle, and the locals at the museum, library and nursing home were outstandingly friendly and helpful. That’s a topic for another day.
The Rollingstone caravan park had a resident Bower Bird that was stealing anything silver to impress his girlfriends – including tow hitch clips! A sign warning of his cleptomania was prominent in the office. We didn’t spot him in action whilst we were there, but it would have meant a trip into Townsville to replace this very necessary item if it had been knocked off… Have you ever seen a bower bird nest, or had something bright and shiny stolen?!
I recently saw a pamphlet at the Malanda Dairy café and gallery advertising a weekend wild life photography workshop with Steve Parish and Martin Willis. I have admired Steve’s work over a number of years – I’ve always thought of him as the ‘calendar bloke’. Martin’s work is on display in the gallery and I was very impressed. I decided to enrol and take the course.
It was a revelation – I learned a great deal from these people. These blokes are top notch photographers, extremely passionate about their subject and photography. They had arranged for people from the wildlife centre at Kuranda to bring some animals for us to photograph and the 13 of us on the course had a lot of fun getting images of them.
It was a privilege to spend some time with Steve and Martin – not mention Martin’s partner Samantha who looked after us very well. Here’s some happy snaps taken at the workshop – I hope you enjoy these couple of photos as much as I enjoyed taking them.
Western Australians may be interested in several workshops Steve is holding in WA in the future.
Watch this space as I start to offer photographs for sale later in the year.